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Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

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Mara Dyer believes life can’t get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her strangely unharmed.
There is.

She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.
She’s wrong.

This book had so so much potential. I loved the premise and after a shaky start (because a ouija board? Really?) I was mightily impressed.

However, I did have some issues as the plot unfolded itself, and it did leave me hella confused in places.

So, what worked for me?

Noah – I loved his character. I think he had the best lines in the book and without him I probably would have put it down.

Concept – Ok, so this aspect is going to crop up further down too, but for now, I’m going to focus on the positive. Almost like a ‘before’ and ‘after’ the big plot revelation. Up until ‘that realisation’ I was so excited about this concept, and I was totally in love with the idea that this was digging into some deep psychological shit. It was almost like a Stephen King horror in that respect, you know? Because these horrible scenes were hadned to you on a platter and I was just itching to know how and why it had all occurred.

Mara – Again, I’ll be doubling up on this aspect. I liked Mara very much by the end. She seemed to find her voice within the narrative and that gave me confidence to keep going with this series.

Writing Style – Despite the niggles I had, the writing is really good. It’s engaging and so gosh darn readable. It’s one of those books where you finish it and you realise its flaws but you don’t care too much because the writing was really good!

What didn’t work for me?

Mara – Yup. Here we go again. Mara bothered me because she didn’t stand out. I think for a protagonist you need someone that comes through the words and stands in front of you as you read, you know? Someone that taps you on the shoulder in the day and says ‘hey, you gonna finish reading me yet?’ It took me a long time to warm up to Mara. She simply had no presence. She was white wash for me, up until near the very end.

Concept – Like I said. I was all for this being some massive psychological thriller… But then it hits me over the head with a massive stick from the paranormal tree? Say what? I think it’s safe to say that I didn’t see it coming. Other than the ouija board, I saw no inclination towards the spooky. Horror? Check. Graphic? Check. Paranormal oogly booglies? Nuh uh. It disappointed me because it felt like a cop out. Gone was the notion that this was one badass psycho chick.. and in her place was some kind of paranormal excuse.

Any tension or horror I felt while reading this book fizzled away after that moment. I mean, there’s something scary about someone losing their minds and turning into Leatherface, or something. But because the paranormal aspect wasn’t a presence up to that point, it only left me feeling deflated. Boo.

Still, I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars at the time. And even though now, after thinking about it and letting it settle on me, I’m tempted to lower that rating a little, I’m not going to. I’m a big advocate of gut feelings, and my initial reaction was ‘oh, that was confusing. But I loved reading it.’ So there you have it.

I’ve got the second book on reserve at the library- I’m looking forward to seeing how it all develops.

(and that cover art! <3 )

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Top Ten Tuesday – Series I Want to Start

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As usual, TTT is brought to you by the Broke and the Bookish.

Top New Series I Want To Start

So, some of these I really need to get on top of.

Throne of Glass is a ‘retry’ for me. I didn’t like it when it first came out, but I love a series, and my tastes have changed a little, so I’m willing to give it another go.

I actually own a few of these… I just haven’t got to them yet!

Which one should I read first? 

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Mad about the boy – Frankenstein (Halloween Special) #1

I wanted to start posting something regular about those lads in books that cause some kind of reaction in us. Whether that’s melty, fuzzy warm feeling, or wanting to smash his private place with a rolling pin…

There has been some top notch characterisation over the years, and long may it continue!

First up, in honour of the season, Victor Frankenstein. And his monster too, I guess.

“So much has been done…more, far more, will I achieve; treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation.”

You gotts give the guy points for his passion and his determination.

For all his faults (and there are a few) the wonderful thing about Shelley’s writing is that really, you can’t hate him, can you? Because put into his shoes…

He had no idea what he would end up creating, and it was not carried out for a malicious cause. Rather, a quest for knowledge. And I can totally get down with that.

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…and what follows is a series of mistakes and blunders fuelled by human ignorance and, ironically, a lack of knowledge.

There is something romantic about Victor’s character, I feel, in a classic way. I love the way desire and companionship is questioned because why shouldn’t his creature have someone, something, similar to keep him company?

Oh Victor, you were a silly fool. Intelligent, passionate, but most definitely a fool.

Let’s see how he fares on the Fit-O-Meter (yeah, it sounds archaic, deal with it) It’s like Top Trumps, but once more with feeling-

Brains: 8 (he’s a clever sausage)

Brawn: 4 (I’m not sure how well he’d do in an arm wrestle against me)

Bedded: 4 (It’s the early 1800s… Soo..)

Quotable: 5 (Unfortunately his creation gets the better lines in this book, as a rule)

Style: 7 (The guy created life! That’s some slick style right there. Godly, even)

Overall: 5.6

 

 

 

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Review: Patch Up by Stephanie Witter

17979646Patch Up by Stephanie Witter (Anchor Group Publishing, 2013) Received, with thanks, from NetGalley.

Skye followed her long time boyfriend to Seattle for their first year of college, but he dumped her after only a week. The relationship brought only pain and destruction in Skye’s life, and yet, she can’t bring herself to open up and live her life.

“What if I am already broken into pieces?”

She hates to be touched, hiding under her oversized shirts and behind her wild frizzy hair. Even her bubbly roommate can’t reach her. And yet …

“I’m the guy who knows how you can hurt so much that your insides feel like they’re cut and bleeding.”

The tall, handsome, and tattooed TA in her psychology class changes everything when he literally collides with her and confronts her. For the first time in a long time, she wants to try and open up to this guy whose dark, intense eyes can’t hide his own pain despite his dazzling smile getting to her.

However, just when she’s starting to live again, her ex-boyfriend comes back, breaking her time and time again, making it all the more complicated.

She wants to fight for herself and for this building thing with the TA, even when he pushes her away, but can two broken people patch each other up?

“I never thought colliding with someone could change lives, but it is possible.”

So.. that’s one heck of a blurb, eh? Like one of those movie trailers that leaves you feeling like you’ve already seen all of the film.

Generally speaking, I liked the story here. It’s got plenty of ups and downs and action to keep me interested. What lets the story down ultimately is the writing. Without a doubt, it’s easy to read and easy to just go with it- it doesn’t require you to think. At all. For me, I felt like I was being told too much, and there was nothing unexpected about the characters, or the scenes. Basically, it was nothing that I haven’t read before.

That said, I thought Skye had a lot of potential as a character. What I felt was missing was a real defining moment. A moment of real strength and fire. I admire that the author takes on some difficult themes and issues, but I felt like these became too much of a focus, and as such, Skye isn’t given enough breathing space on the page. Also, I didn’t like how Skye seemed to look down at everyone at first. This does change, but still there’s a kind of sneery quality to her when it comes to certain behaviours and habits.

There were some holes in the plot. At least, I felt there were. Skye ends up in some terrible situations. But she also admits that she’s more ‘flight’ than ‘fight’ and on more than one occasion disaster could have been avoided if she had done just that. Just run away! Scream and run!

I’m interested to see what else is in store for these characters. Duke was cool, even if his temper was somewhat out of place. And I hope that Skye develops further in the next book. She needs to!

All things considered I gave this book 2 out of 5. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it! Sometimes characters have a way of worming their way into your heart. But the writing was a little basic and lacked a certain finesse that I look for within a narrative. The characters were compelling, but inconsistent. But it was an easy read, and sometimes that’s all you need.

(I really like the cover to this.. but that is so not how I imagine Skye!)

 

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Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Borrowed from my local library.

This is my foray into the literature of Rainbow Rowell. I wasn’t disappointed. I was, however, conflicted.

Writing Style – was quirky, and I thought this worked really well for the most part. But sometimes it felt forced. Like being kooky for the sake of being kooky. The descriptions that sparked this reaction in me usually revolved around Levi’s mouth. Apples and fetal smiles.. Odd.

Age group – This is firmly a YA book, methinks. It’s got all the appropriate elements working for it. But it’s strange because there’s a lot of NA books based around characters of similar ages and situations. That first year at university. It reminded me how style and perspective can push the boundary one way or the other.

Fanfiction – *deep breath* Ok. I’m just going to come out and say it. I think this book would be better with less emphasis on the fanfiction aspect. In fact, I’d be totally cool with that aspect being removed. Completely. There are some contributing factors to my feelings. Firstly, I was narked that Simon Snow is obviously Harry Potter. I didn’t feel comfortable with that. It felt like it was a pastiche of the types of fanfiction you can find written about the Harry Potter books. And this leads me onto my second point; Cather has become some sort of icon for all whacked out fanfiction readers/writers. Neurotic, psychotic, socially awkward, hermetic, slash-obsessed (and maybe a little perverted).

Heck, I’ve written my fair share of lemons (see fanfic vocab), I’ve also taken my own fanfic stories far too seriously. Like, if I didn’t finish writing it, I might die! But I don’t have any social hang-ups (not the the same extent as Cather), I don’t hole myself up in my room (and I didn’t at university) and I spent a healthy amount of time drunk as much as sober (not promoting irresponsible drinking here). I had an experience very much like Catehr’s sister, Wren, at university.

But I still wrote, obsesses over, fanfiction. I had a Harry Potter poster on the wall. I wore my Harry Potter hoody and put Lord of the Rings badges on it. I loved Star Trek. I got excited about Star Wars. I had glasses, I was quiet, I didn’t like answering questions in class.

But I don’t have OCD. I function as close to ‘normal’ as anyone else.

Furthermore, and this is what really got my goat, why-oh-why did Cather drag her feet about that writing assignment? You can’t submit fanfiction and pass it off as your own. That IS plagiarism. End of. So do what I did.. put the Deatheaters down and write something else. It really is that simple. I just wanted Cather to show the integrity and intelligence I knew she had.

Finally, the fans. I sometimes felt like Cath’s ego was being stroked too much. So what if you have thousands of people reading your fanfic? If you stopped writing they’d be upset for a while, sure, but they’d find someone else. It’s a fickle place, the interwebs, and Cather says as much! But she puts so much stock in a fan base she has had no physical contact with (save one individual). And it’s not healthy.

Maturity – I respected that Rowell has Cather face some really awkward situations, those scary/exciting ‘firsts’, and I was relieved to see Cather develop and grow as a young adult. But I didn’t experience the level of maturity I wanted to. Rather than Levi accepting her for who she is, I felt like he was settling, like her was adapting and compromising. I wanted Cath to be more like Wren, and I was sad that Wren was put in a disagreeable light.

I enjoyed following Cath’s story, despite the few niggles. Levi was a fantastic character, and so was Reagan. Part of me wishes it were Reagan’s story instead! She was so sassy, and says it how it is. I like her a lot.

It was highly readable. It was easy to jump into the pages and keep going and going. Rowell has an engaging way with words, even if sometimes it drops a few clangers.

In the end, I had to give Fangirl 3 out of 5. I couldn’t ignore the things that made me grumble, but on the other hand, I can’t really say that there is much ‘wrong’ with this book. I can readily see why people might love it. But ultimately, it wasn’t really for me.

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The Sharpest Blade… was blunt

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I lusted after this book… as soon as I finished book #2 I was left NEEDING this book. To be fair, I felt like the end of #2 was a good place to have ended it, generally (with a teeny amount of tweaking). So I was interested to see where the final book would go.

Nowhere.

That’s where it went.

This is why I opted not to do a proper review or post about this book because I can’t put my personal feelings aside, at all, for this one.

It was an odd read. The main character, Mckenzie, was redundant to the plot. Which is a strange situation to find yourself in as a reader! Her original skills, motives, attitude.. whoosh! Gone. Instead we’re back to the love triangle.

Noooo. This seemed to have resolved itself quite nicely in the previous book so I was a little disappointed that we spent many pages worrying over one guy, or the other.

I could have accepted the teen angst if the outcome were more what I was hoping for. But Mckenzie get sto have her cake… and shove it in Kyol’s face. And I didn’t like that. That guy had been there for her, he love dher, would protect her. He was big and strong and (hell yes) sexy. But she discards him, refuses to accept any ‘feelings’ for him because of the bond. He even got the ‘I hope you find someone someday’ speech. And that was not cool.

So yeah, this was an odd one. I felt like I was reading a prolonged deleted scene. A disappointing end to what could have been a freakin’ fantastic series.

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Review: Stolen Songbird by Danielle L Jensen

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Stolen Songbird by Danielle L Jensen (2014, Strange Chemistry) borrowed from my local library

For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.

But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.

As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.

Oh Strange Chemistry, how I love thee! This publisher delivers some really interesting reads, and this is no exception.

I was worried at first- it took me a good few pages to really get into it and I was thinking it was gonna be a loooong few days. But I’m not sure what happened, one moment Cecile is prancing up the road on her pretty pony, the next she’s been taken kidnap and married off to the nearest troll. Oh hell yeah! Suddenly I was locked in.

Why? It has a lot to do with Tristan. This guy made the whole narrative come alive for me. I found Cecile to be a a little weak for a protagonist. Not to say that she herself was weak, but there was something lacking in the way the narrative continued her perspective that left me feeling half empty, rather than half full. She can be sassy, and I loved those moments. Also, once she grew into herself more (I don’t want to give anything away here, so I’ll have to be a little cryptic) I started to really warm up to her.

But Tristan was fascinating. He’s 17 going on 37 (you’ll see what I mean) and just so gosh darn sexy!

For me, there were some glimmers of Yelena and Valek from the Study series (by Maria V Snyder) in this pair and I was definitely digging that quality.

The world building was great and Jensen provides the reader with a lovable cast of characters. Even the ones you love to hate! Heh heh.

It’s quite a long book (for a YA title) but I didn’t grow bored, in fact, I thought that the ‘wooing’ could have done with being stretched out further. It was very ‘light switch’. Off. Then suddenly on. Let’s make babies! Woo! Ok, I exaggerate, but still, I would have liked to have seen the romance blossom a bit more.

This books was so up my street and I was over the moon to find myself a new YA fantasy series to obsess over. An excited 4.5 out of 5. I cannot wait for the next book! Gimme!